There are various causes for a dog throwing up blood and it's therefore important to seek veterinary attention so to go to the source of the problem and treat it accordingly. In normal circumstances, there should not be blood in a dog's vomit and its presence therefore can feel alarming for the dog owner, especially when the blood in dog's vomit is of a copious amount. Following is some information on vomiting blood in dogs, discuss what conditions may cause this, symptoms dog owners may notice and diagnostic tests and potential treatments by veterinarian Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic.
A Dog Throwing Up Blood is Not Normal
Blood is nature's way of saying something is out of place. It is scary to see blood no matter if your dog is throwing it up, or it is anywhere on the body. A dog throwing up blood, whatever the cause, is not a normal occurrence and it is necessary to identify the source of the bleeding.
The vomiting of blood is medically known as hematemesis and it can be acute, with the severe and sudden occurrence or chronic, regularly vomiting several times per week or month. Hematemesis is different from hemoptysis – coughing of blood due to a respiratory problem (dogs swallow the blood from a respiratory tract and then vomiting it up).
Small amounts of fresh and bright blood in a dog's vomit usually derives from a physical injury to the mouth or throat, usually small cuts. Unless your dog is throwing up blood from a minor source such as a little bit of blood coming from a cut in the dog's mouth or connected to a dental problem, you should promptly visit a veterinarian.
Usually, the severity of the situation depends on the quantity of the blood vomited, but that is not always true. Coffee-like dark-colored and thick blood is more likely to come from internal bleeding deeper in the GI tract.
Causes for a Dog Throwing Up Blood
Many different causes can be responsible for vomiting blood. The most common reason is a gastrointestinal disease or inflammation (like IBD) or even ulcers or foreign body presence.
Ulcers are changed tissues of the inner lining of the stomach in the form of sores. These sores are constantly being injured by acid and food leading to inflammation and bleeding. Many different conditions can cause ulcers, but common ones in dogs are medications like NSAID or steroids.
Possible gastrointestinal problems that can lead to blood in vomit are food poisoning or bacterial infection like E.Coli or Salmonella. Bacterial infections are known as hemorrhagic gastroenteritis with additional symptoms such as bloody diarrhea, pain, fever, apathy.
Chewing on bones can produce sharp edges of the bone which then can heart intestines or throat. Another issue that can produce blood in vomit is hookworm, a parasite that makes holes through the intestinal wall and feeds on blood. To increase the blood flow, these parasites inject a blood- thinning toxin into intestinal lining. Usually, blood in vomit is noticeable only when the number of these parasites is huge.
Different conditions like liver failure or head trauma can lead to hematemesis. Liver failure may lead to coagulopathy, lack of normal blood clotting or thrombocytopenia – a reduced blood platelet count. Additional to liver failure, there are other reasons that can affect normal blood clotting and platelet count, like toxins (heavy metals like iron or snake bites) or ingestion of rat poison.
Another possible and very lethal poisoning is ingesting antifreeze, and after a day or more dog will start bleeding internally and vomiting blood.
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Traumas also can cause hematemesis, including head trauma, severe burns, surgery, and heat stroke.
At the Vet's Office
Vomiting blood is not a condition that needs to be diagnosed, but rather a very important symptom of some other condition. The first line in diagnosing the cause is proper medical history, medications, travel, exposure to toxins, plants, trauma, or shock. Usually, there are other symptoms combined, like fever or blood in feces that can pinpoint in the right diagnostic direction.
Next step should involve blood tests that should check for anemia and clotting disorders, or changes in white blood cells that would indicate infection. This also can lead to a diagnosis of liver or kidney malfunction or cancer, followed by other tests like urinalysis for confirmation.
Ultrasound or X-rays may be indicated to check for masses or internal bleeding. Laboratory testing may also include fecal screening for parasites.
Treatment for a Dog Throwing Up Blood
Treatments for hematemesis may and will differ depending on the cause of the bleeding. Treatment is actually targeted to the underlying source of bleeding causing a dog throwing up blood.
If the dog is very ill with huge loss of blood, blood or plasma transfusion is indicated with IV fluids to prevent and treat shock and dehydration. Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis can lead to serious dehydration and even death, just as well as viral infection; proper medical treatment should be given in both cases.
Ulcers or gastritis should be treated with antacids and antiemetics, but, the most important treatment plan should involve treating or eliminating the source of these conditions.
Poisoning should be treated accordingly to the poison ingested, while parasites should be eliminated by targeted drugs. Some cases, like tumors, or injuries may require surgery.
A change in diet is recommended after any incidents of vomiting blood. Food should be low in fat and fiber so that the digestive system is not stressed. The further diet should be adapted to the exact problem identified as the cause of hematemesis.
DVM Ivana Vukasinovic is a veterinarian in Belgrade, capital city of Serbia.
She received her B.S from University of Belgrade in 2012, and her master’s degree from Veterinary University, Belgrade.
Before eventually becoming director of Vetanima Doo, company that sells animal food, medicine and supplements, she have worked in many different fields of sales. After finishing college, she started working as sales person in biggest Serbian bookshop chain, and being passionate about books, she had reached the position of publisher.
After leaving this field, she started working as a veterinary commercialist, and then landing a job as veterinarian at veterinary pharmacy, in the same company in which she is now acting as director.
When she is not working, she is either glued to some fantasy book or cooking for friends. She currently resides in Belgrade with her cat Mile.